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I’m Trying to Save My Marriage, but My Spouse Isn’t

You can still make a difference in your marriage.

Each new year, people examine things they want to change or improve. Some people want to work on their marriage. That’s a worthy goal, but what if you’re one of those people who’s trying to save their marriage, and you feel like your spouse isn’t trying? That can be painful, for sure.

Marriage is two people who choose daily to walk together through life. It’s probably a good idea to find out whether you’re having a marriage problem or if you or your spouse are having individual issues that are impacting your marriage. A good marriage counselor can help with that. In either case, these steps can help you move forward. 

Take time for self-reflection.

Inventory your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, challenges, areas for growth, etc.

Ask questions like:

  • Why do I feel like I’m the only one trying?
  • What’s making me feel dissatisfied?
  • How do I want my marriage to be? 
  • Am I trying to change my spouse or trying to add value to my marriage?
  • What can I do differently?
  • How am I putting forth my best effort?

Walk a Mile in Your Spouse’s Shoes (Empathy).

Now that you’ve examined things from your perspective, put on your spouse’s shoes. Look at your marriage from their perspective. Ask them what they’re thinking and feeling. When you’re open and curious, they may be willing to share. Maybe they don’t want to add anything to your plate. Seeing through your spouse’s eyes may show you that they’re trying more than you realize.

Change the Dance (It Only Takes One).

Even though “It takes two to tango,” you can change the dance! It may be challenging, and you may be tired of taking the first step, but don’t give up! Marriage therapists say that if just one person is working to improve the marriage, there’s hope. There are many great resources out there to help. And who knows? Before you know it, you may not be dancing by yourself at all.  

Connect More by Criticizing Less.

Sometimes we think we’re “helping” when we point out our spouse’s mistakes or missteps. Sure, we have good intentions, but our spouse hears criticism. They may think who they are (or their effort) isn’t good enough, so they just give up. Criticism hinders connecting. I want to challenge you to say 5 positive things for every negative thing you say. Experts say this makes a massive difference in your relationship. (Check out 30 Days of Gratitude and Love here.)

Be The Change You Want To See.

The key to being the change is your attitude/perspective. Changing may require that you do things without expecting anything in return. Or just listen. Or just put one foot in front of the other. What kind of change do you want to see? Are you connecting in a meaningful way with your spouse and creating space for things your spouse enjoys?

Mark Gungor, marriage speaker, says we should try to “outdo the dog.” Think about how your dog greets you when you come home. Your fur baby shows you they’re excited to see you and spend time with you. What if you tried this with your spouse? What could it hurt? 

Nobody wants their marriage to go through changes and hard times, but it’s normal. If you’re in a challenging stage, your willingness to keep trying to save your marriage may help pave the way for your spouse to try, too. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

How to Overcome Built-Up Resentment in Marriage

Even though it may be hard or even painful, a healthier relationship is worth the effort.

If you knew a killer was in your house, you’d fight to protect your family, right? Well, built-up resentment can be a silent killer in marriage that’s hard (but not impossible) to overcome. 

Festering resentment affects what you think of your spouse and how much you trust them. It can erode emotional intimacy and connectedness. It can also lead to contempt, which is something you definitely don’t want in your marriage.

It’s painful when your spouse hurts, disappoints, or makes you angry over and over again. Those unresolved issues, repeated disappointments, and unmet expectations can leave you feeling stuck in a nasty rhythm. You may even be wondering if you can ever move past the resentment you feel. Or even like your spouse again. 

You’re not alone or crazy. And resentment is something EVERYONE struggles with.

Overcoming built-up resentment in marriage isn’t easy. These tips can help as you try to overcome built-up resentment toward your spouse.

Choose to let some things go.

Allowing your hurt or anger to determine what you think about your spouse is not helpful. Try to understand yourself and your triggers. Letting go of resentment is a win for your marriage.

Empathize and recognize.

We all want to know our feelings matter. When we’re struggling with resentment, we sometimes make short or snappy responses and snarky comments or give our spouse the silent treatment. And that resentment continues to build when we don’t feel heard. My wife and I are still growing in this area. We’ve been working on not having to be right all the time, understanding each other’s emotions, and trying to empathize with tough choices. Understanding each other has been a game-changer for us.

Try to put yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Recognize that they may have good intentions. (Read more about empathy here, here, and here.)

Forgive and Apologize.

Easier said than done, right? This can be a hard one. But if you don’t forgive and let go of grudges you’ve been holding, you’ll continue to feel disconnected. You may be trying to punish your spouse by holding on to resentment, but forgiveness allows you both to heal and grow.

Retrain your brain.

Resentment often makes little things seem worse than they really are, and it can rewire your brain to think negatively toward your spouse. That may leave you in a resentment rut. Get out of that rut by focusing on the positive without ignoring what’s bothering you! Show your spouse you appreciate them, and acknowledge how they make you and your marriage better.

Be honest with yourself.

Is it really about your spouse, or is there something personal you may need to work through? Our past experiences and our self-protective instincts affect the way we see things. You may think your spouse is being inconsiderate or selfish, but it’s possible you made an assumption or tried to read their mind (been there; doesn’t work). You (or both of you) may have a blind spot or two. 5 Days to Better Communication may help you see a little more clearly. 

Dig deeper by asking: Why am I holding on to this anger? Does this remind me of something else? Am I afraid of something?

Be honest with your spouse.

Find a good time to talk about your feelings. Use as many “I” statements as possible and try to stay away from phrases like “You never” or “You always.” Tell them how specific actions and comments make you feel without accusing your spouse of being all those nasty things you’ve probably conjured up in your mind. (That kind of conversation goes nowhere, fast!) It’ll be much easier to talk to each other if you’re not focusing on the negative.

Get the support your marriage needs.

Sometimes you’re gonna need a little help to work things out. If there’s an unwelcome visitor in your home and you can’t handle it yourself, you’ll call for backup. A qualified counselor can help you deal with deep-seated resentment or move past that thing you can’t let go of. There’s no shame in seeking help when you need it. And your marriage may depend on it. 

Resentment can totally kill your marriage if you don’t deal with it, so working through resentment is worth the effort. Together, you can overcome the obstacles, attack the issues instead of each other, and move forward in your marriage.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Why People Really Have Affairs (It’s Not Always Just About Sex)

Protect (and maybe even save) your marriage by being open with your spouse and talking about these ideas.

Marital affairs are kind of like rust. On the surface, it’s apparent that a single, ugly event has happened. But underneath is a complex process of chemical reactions and driving forces that have built up over time. Affairs are complicated like that. And finding out why people really have affairs can be even more complicated.

Therapist Esther Perel describes an affair as having three essential elements: 

  • A secretive relationship
  • An emotional connection
  • A sexual chemistry

The word chemistry is used here because actual sexual activity doesn’t have to be involved to be a marital betrayal. To paraphrase Perel, the mere thought of a single kiss can be as powerful as hours of lovemaking. 

It’s essential to understand emotional affairs-—when one is getting their emotional needs met by someone other than their spouse—are just as damaging to a marriage as sexual affairs. Not to mention the fact that emotional affairs often quickly escalate to sexual ones. 

But what causes a spouse to stray? It’s tempting to want to peg the blame on a single factor. He just wasn’t getting enough from his wife, so we went hunting in the bars. She didn’t feel loved at home, and another man showed her attention. 

Rarely do affairs boil down to one single reason. What leads up to the one-night-stand or the seductive conversations over text is usually a mix of ingredients that have been simmering for a while. To understand this, it might be more helpful to think of affairs as having contributing factors rather than reasons.  

Let’s look at five of these contributing factors to help explain why people have marital affairs: 

1. They let their guard down. 

Good marriages do not prevent affairs. Just when you think, “I could never do that,” or “Our marriage is much too healthy for infidelity,” is when you are the most vulnerable. Anne Bercht, director of Beyond Affairs Network, writes that the keys to affair prevention are realizing your marriage is not immune because it’s good, and being informed. She says there is no such thing as affair-proofing your marriage. But “developing open, honest, respectful communication in your relationship, including the ability and commitment to give and receive constructive criticism” is a strong foundation to keep your guard up. 

2. They let their marriage go out of focus. 

We often become hyper-focused on work, stress, hefty schedules, or even kids. Especially kids. Life happens. It’s easy to fool ourselves and say we do this for our marriage. The problem is our marriage suffers because it’s not being focused on. It’s in these circumstances the doors to infidelity crack open. You can minimize this factor by ensuring your focus remains on your spouse. 

3. They give a NOD

Infidelity and marriage expert Scott Haltzman explains in his book, The Secrets to Surviving Infidelity, that an unfaithful partner gives a “NOD” toward an affair: Need, Opportunity, Disinhibition. The Need is something they feel is missing in their life, such as love, respect, attention, or emotional support. The Opportunity for the affair might be a business trip, an office party, the gym, or being alone with someone in your circle of friends. And the Disinhibition can be alcohol or drugs, but perhaps more often something such as resentment, depression, or a sense of entitlement. 

What is interesting is the NOD can also be the key to avoiding infidelity. The more two people seek to meet each other’s needs in marriage, it minimizes the opportunities and disinhibition that leads to betrayal. 

4. They were seeking something they feel they didn’t have. 

Esther Perel says that affairs are less about sex and more about desire. “At the heart of an affair you will often find a longing and a yearning for an emotional connection, for novelty, for freedom, for autonomy, for sexual intensity…” The problem here is that often the other spouse doesn’t know these things are missing because they are never told. A healthy person communicates needs to their spouse. 

5. They aren’t happy with themselves. 

Many times, the affair is more about the unfaithful person than it is about the marriage or the other spouse. Perel, again, offers lots of wisdom here: “When we seek the gaze of another, it isn’t always our partner we are tearing away from, but the person we have ourselves become… We aren’t looking for another person as much as we are looking for another self.” Experiencing something missing from your marriage and seeing the NOD at work requires a hard inward look at yourself. It begs the question, “Am I happy with who I am? Am I about to let dissatisfaction with myself damage my marriage with this choice? 

The truth of the matter is we are all capable of having an affair. However, every spouse has the ability to say, even though I am capable, I will make the conscious choice not to walk through that door. As Anne Brecht puts it, be informed. Be aware of the contributing factors that can be at work and work to reverse those. Be open with your spouse and talk about these ideas. Together, make the conscious choice to remain steadfast in your marital relationship. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

So, what do you do if you think your spouse’s friends are hurting your marriage? 

It’s essential to proceed with great care. Your goal is to voice your concern in a way that’s respectful to your spouse. How you approach the subject can move you toward resolution or, in the opposite direction, toward conflict. 

Proceeding with care means you need to ask yourself some crucial questions before talking with your spouse about it. 

What exactly am I seeing, hearing, and experiencing that makes me feel this way? 

  • Can I name something specific which makes me think my spouse’s friends are bringing harm to our relationship? 
  • What are my spouse’s friends’ marriages like?
  • Is this a new friend that concerns me?

Is what I’m seeing in my spouse’s friends hurting my spouse as a person? 

  • Have I seen this person have a negative impact on my spouse? 
  • Is it causing my spouse to be someone they aren’t? 
  • Do these friends care about my spouse’s well-being? 

Is there something going on within me (rather than my spouse) causing these negative feelings to be triggered? 

  • What are my own friendships like? Is there anything lacking that may influence how I’m feeling about my spouse’s friends? 
  • Am I taking care of myself? Am I trying to be my best self in my marriage? 

Is there something between my spouse and their friends going against what we stand for in our marriage? 

  • Do my spouse’s friends know how things work in our marriage? 
  • Do they openly support our marriage? 

Having a good, productive conversation with your spouse means you will need to consider the answers to some of these questions. The hope is for you to approach your spouse calmly and respectfully with your thoughts and feelings. Can you come to a common understanding of what is causing your sentiments and agree on how to move forward?

★ Here’s how to do that. 

Try to approach your spouse when neither of you is feeling stressed. It might help your spouse focus more on the conversation if you ask them to set aside a time to talk. 

Be specific with your spouse about what you’ve observed that concerns you. Use “I” statements to own your own feelings. People usually respond better when they don’t feel like they are being accused and put on trial. Approach the conversation with a calmpaced… voice.

This is the message you want to communicate: I’m concerned for you and our marriage because… [Avoid making blanket accusing statements like, “Your friends are ruining our marriage by doing such-and-such.”] Be sure to let your spouse know your ultimate goal is for your marriage to be as healthy as it can, and you don’t want anything to stand in the way of that. Acknowledge you realize how important it is for your spouse to have friends—but friends that are for you and your marriage.

This is important: Allow your spouse to speak about this subject. Naturally, they might be on the defensive; that’s okay. Simply hear them out and calmly reinforce your primary concern. 

The place you want to get to is the security that your marriage is no longer being threatened. So, you and your spouse need to come to an agreement as to how that can happen. 

  • Does a particular activity with friends need to be modified or stopped altogether?
  • Maybe time with friends needs to be limited?
  • Does my spouse need to have a conversation with their friends about what our marriage stands for?
  • Does my spouse need to distance herself from one of her friends?
  • Do I need to change something in my own mindset to help me feel better about my spouse’s friends? 
  • Do my spouse and I need to spend more time together? 

Friends are important. But they should never cause a problem for your marriage.

Take time to ask yourself the important questions and plan a calm, conversational approach. If needed, seek professional help to determine a solution, preferably involving both you and your spouse. Remember, these conversations aren’t always easy, and it might not all be settled in your first talk. Hard conversations, handled well, are well worth having for a stronger marriage.

How to Have More Meaningful Conversations With Your Spouse

What to Do When Your Spouse Lacks Empathy

My Friends Are Getting Divorced and It’s Affecting My Marriage

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Have you had to navigate this in your marriage? What suggestions do you have? Be sure to leave them in the comments section below!

5 Things You Should Have In Common With Your Spouse

Marriage can thrive even when you are different.

How much do I need to have in common with my spouse for our marriage to be healthy and happy? Do we need to like all the same things for this to work? 

These are valid questions faced by many engaged or newly-married couples. We all want to be compatible with our partner, we want to share interests and likes, but do we need to have everything in common? 

You should have some things in common with your spouse, but it doesn’t have to be everything. There is beauty in our differences. Marriage thrives even when we are different.

Here are some things you should have in common with your spouse:

Goals.

It is vital to have some shared goals, such as family size and career aspirations. You don’t want to get three years into marriage to find out you have different plans for children. You also don’t want your marriage to suffer because one person desires to climb the corporate ladder while the other does not. It doesn’t mean you both need to be ambitious in your career, but you need to discuss those ambitions and have a common goal that addresses what you both want. The same goes for family goals.

Values.

Values are critically important as you are establishing your marriage. When you share common values such as honesty, loyalty, transparency, faith, etc., you have a foundation upon which to build your marriage. You don’t have to share all the same values, but you need to share core values. 

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously.

I’m gonna share a secret with you. Ready? Marriage is hard. Doing life with someone isn’t easy. Injecting humor into the relationship helps alleviate stress. Have a shared understanding of what humor is. Do you see humor as jokes, pranks, sarcasm, goofiness? Talk about what humor means to each of you and make sure you are on the same page. You don’t want one spouse’s humor to be insulting to the other. A fun marriage is a happy marriage.

Boundaries.

Boundaries are crucial to your marriage, but what are boundaries? Think of a guardrail on the highway. Why is it there? To keep you out of the ditch. Boundaries work the same way. Do you both have the same boundaries on opposite-sex friends? This will be huge for your marriage. Talk about it now. Here is a resource for you: How to Talk to Your Spouse About Opposite-Sex Friends.

Friends and Family.

Friends and family are important. Have a conversation early about this. Do each of you continue to maintain all of your friendships and habits with friends? Do you come to an agreement about how often each of you hangs out with friends? Where does family fall in your marriage? Family is important, but the family you are building is more important. Agree on some common boundaries for friends and family that keep your marriage at the forefront.

Help! My Spouse and I Have Nothing in Common

We’re Total Opposites! Can Our Relationship Work?

5 Things To Do When You Feel Disconnected From Your Spouse

You and your partner aren’t going to have everything in common, and that’s okay. Relationships can thrive in our differences. Your marriage will be fuller when you both embrace what makes you unique. You should have some things in common with your spouse, talk about these, and lay the groundwork for a happy, healthy marriage.

For more marriage resources, check out our Marriage Shop.

When I first started dating my husband 32 years ago (but who’s counting?), the first thing I noticed about him besides his legs was how different we were from each other

I was concerned we didn’t have many things in common. Would this be a stumbling block to our future marriage? 

Now, I see the benefits. I see how not acting the same, not thinking the same, interacting with others exactly the same, or even having a whole lot in common became a strength in our marriage, not a problem. The things we didn’t have in common caused us to respect each other and support each other better. I had to stop myself from continually thinking we had to have everything in common. I realized the words from Jerry Maguire were absolutely wrong. It’s not about seeking to complete each other, but learning to complement each other despite differences.

Here are some things you and your spouse DON’T need to have in common:

1. Personality

From the very beginning of our relationship, my husband and I were and are different. He liked Lakers’ Showtime of the ’80s while I was a fan of the Bad Boys of Detroit. I loved pro-football, and he was a big college football fan. I am an extreme extrovert who loves being around many people. At the same time, he is much more comfortable around a small group of close friends. Neither one of us is right or wrong. Instead, we learned to respect and embrace our differences.

2. Common Interests and Activities

Many couples struggle with the idea that they must spend “all their time together.” Yes, you and your spouse need to spend intentional quality time together. You don’t need to spend every waking moment together or have all your interests and activities in common. While you are a part of a couple, it’s vital for you as an individual to grow and develop. The key is to support your spouse in their activities. I enjoy reading. My husband—not so much. It makes me feel loved and valued when he goes to a bookstore with me while I just wander around. Or he takes care of our family while I head to a bookstore. In both cases, he is demonstrating his care and support for me and my interests.

3. Family/Cultural Background

Although my husband and I come from the same racial & ethnic background, our families are very different. My family is composed of biological family and friends that become family. His family was basically made of his immediate family, aunts, uncles, and biologically-related cousins. It doesn’t matter if you come from a single-parent family with one child or a large family with several children. You could have been born in Georgia while your spouse is from Utah. As long as you recognize and appreciate what you each bring to your relationship, it will not suffer because of your cultural differences.

4. Political Beliefs

As a young adult, I watched James Carville and Mary Matalin work for 2 different presidential campaigns. I watched how they disagreed politically yet didn’t let it negatively affect their relationship. Political beliefs are deeply felt and long-standing. Allowing your spouse to hold their opinions, which differ from yours, causes us to create spaces of patience, understanding, and civility. 

5. Housekeeping and Organizational Skills

As someone who is organizationally challenged, I am grateful that my husband and I don’t have this in common. If we did, we might have ended up on “Hoarders.” (Not really…). For him, everything has a place. For me, as long as I can find it, I’m good. The key is to respect each other and not mandate your spouse to change to be exactly like you. Remember, it’s about complementing each other, not making a clone.

Help! My Spouse and I Have Nothing in Common

We’re Total Opposites! Can Our Relationship Work?

★ For a long time, I wanted him to act like me, like the same things I liked; be involved with the same activities. I thought it would make our relationship better if we liked ALL the same things. I now understand and respect our differences. The fact that we are not the same and see things differently makes us STRONGER. We lovingly and consistently challenge each other to see old things in a new and unique way. 

No matter where you are in your relationship, it’s vital to love and accept your spouse for who they are without spending all of your energy worrying you don’t have things in common.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

There are some people you should not trust: Those who don’t like pizza. People who don’t find puppies cute. Those who laugh way too loud or for no apparent reason. 

Your spouse shouldn’t be someone you can’t trust. Marriage is built (at least in part) on a foundation of trust. And trust is meant to grow over time. 

And yet, it’s not uncommon to find marriages with trouble in the trust department. Somewhere in the journey, one person lost the confidence to see the other as reliable. Trust issues hijack the process of growing together, causing discord and disunity rather than closeness and connection. Trust issues drive a wedge in the intimacy shared between two people. 

How do you know you have trust issues in your marriage? And if you do, what can you do about it? 

Here are seven signs you have trust issues in your marriage: 

  1. You assume your spouse is going to let you down. It’s just inevitable and a matter of time. They’re gonna disappoint you.
  2. You hold your spouse at arm’s length. You want them close, but not really and you find it difficult to be emotionally or physically vulnerable with your spouse.
  3. Maybe you feel the need to hold the remote control in the relationship. You need to know where your spouse is, what they are doing, who they’re with. Every. Single. Moment.
  4. You feel alone, even when you’re with your spouse. Your lack of trust keeps you from feeling connected. 
  5. You have a hard time forgiving genuine mistakes. Those little things we do because we’re human — you take them as a personal attack and surefire evidence of how unreliable they are.
  6. You had a really bad experience in a former relationship. After all, if it happened once, it’s bound to happen again, right? This experience has made you self-protective to a fault. 
  7. You see signs of trust issues in other current relationships. If you experience these trust issues with friends or other family members, you could very well have trust issues with your spouse.

Do any of these sound familiar? Is there a chance you are dealing with trust issues toward your spouse? You are not alone. And trust issues can certainly be overcome when you begin to consider why you struggle with trust in the first place. 

Three things could be happening if you have trust issues in your marriage. 

You have trust issues because of…

  • Something that happened between you and your spouse. 
  • Something that happened before you and your spouse were married. 
  • Both

None of these situations are hopeless. Each may require a slightly different approach to overcome trust issues. Regardless, working through the problems will most certainly require honest conversations with your spouse and will take time. 

I’ve seen couples become impatient with this process. They expected instant results. The healing or forgiveness offered was usually shallow at best (since forgiveness is itself a process). The marriage was in worse shape than before. 

But the couples I have seen who come out stronger on the other side of trust issues are the ones who kept putting one foot in front of the other. They recognized this kind of thing takes time. And they kept at it. I encourage you to do the same. 

  • Honest and respectful conversation is vital. Using “I” statements helps your partner be a much better listener and focuses on your own feelings and behavior: I am having a hard time with trust because… I have a hard time being vulnerable because… I think this part of my past has caused me to…
  • Working toward building trust may require moving toward healing and forgiveness rather than placing blame. You cannot reestablish trust if you continue to hold your spouse in contempt. 
  • Practicing vulnerability with your spouse helps locate the source of trust issues. What may have been the trigger that began your trust issues? Your family upbringing? A bad experience with a former romance? An experience with abuse? Opening up to your spouse about these issues can be difficult. But doing so can begin to reverse the lack of trust, which divides your relationship. 
  • Consider seeking the help of a trusted professional. Counselors can help resolve trust conflicts between you and your spouse or help you work through prior life events, which contributed to your trust issues. 

Building trust with your spouse is vital to your healthy marriage. The good news is there is hope in working through trust issues. Begin the conversation with your spouse. Put one foot in front of the other. Don’t get in a hurry, and seek help where needed. What lies on the other side is a stronger marriage and a deeper connection with your spouse.

★ Working through trust issues in marriage will require healthy communication. Build better communication in your marriage with these tools!  

MARRIAGE COURSE | 5 Days To Better Communication In Marriage

The Magic of Communication In Marriage Ebook

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Have you ever walked over a frozen pond and realized just how thin the ice was? I have. You quickly understand that you need to stepverycarefully

It’s the same when considering telling your friends and family about your marital problems. One wrong step can mean an icy plunge. It’s slippery, and it’s dangerous.

So should you or shouldn’t you? I wish I could tell you a definite “yes” or “no,” but it’s a complicated question. It depends on several things.

Before you unload your marital issues on someone, you need to ask yourself some essential questions: 

1. What is your ultimate goal? 

There are good reasons and not so good reasons to disclose the problems happening in your marriage to someone. Are you…

Seeking someone to tell you how you’re contributing to the problem? 

Looking for advice from an older, wiser married person who’s been through it? 

Looking for someone to point you toward a good marriage counselor? 

These can be good reasons. Make sure you are talking to someone you can trust.

Are you…

Just needing to vent and blow off steam? 

Looking for someone to agree that you are right and your spouse is wrong? 

Looking for permission to keep doing what you’ve been doing in your marriage? 

These usually aren’t great reasons. It can be counterproductive and hurt your spouse.

2. Who do you want to tell, and why? 

Good listeners know there are three sides to a story: your side, your spouse’s side, and what’s really going on. You don’t need a cheerleader. You need someone willing to listen carefully and be willing to call you out for the part you play.

On the other side of the coin, talking to someone who is naturally going to take your side, like your mother or best friend, isn’t going to help your situation. You’re just making enemies for your spouse. Think about that.

Even worse, let’s say you just want to vent your dirty marriage laundry, and you choose, say, your mother. When the rant is over, you might feel better and move on. But guess who isn’t moving on? That’s right: Mom. This is going to make the next family gathering very awkward. 

Consider talking to someone distant enough to be neutral and objective—and who will call you out when necessary and remind you of your core values and goals. 

3. What are the possible outcomes that could come from telling someone? 

Sure, you might feel better if you vent. But at what price? Will your friend or family member see your spouse in a positive or negative light?

If you tell someone, will the news about your marital problems spread among the family or the friend circle? Could your spouse end up feeling hurt from this? Would you say the same things about your marriage or your spouse if they were standing with you?

4. Are you having a conversation with someone that you should have with your spouse?

Often, we have conversations with other people that we haven’t even had with our spouse. If you haven’t engaged with your spouse to work toward solutions and growth, it’s unfair to do your marriage work with someone else. Do your relationship work with your spouse.

Related: How To Tell If Someone Is Trustworthy

It’s one thing to seek out encouragement and accountability. We need people in our lives who help us recalibrate and refocus. It’s definitely wise to learn from marriage veterans. Be discerning about what you share about your marriage and with whom.

Complaining to people about your spouse or running them down is always out of line.

I know you want to do what’s healthy for your marriage. You want to work through the problems. Give yourself 48 hours to gain a sense of calm and honestly answer the above questions for yourself before you make a decision to tell friends or family about your marital problems. Walk across the thin ice toward your spouse. Honor them with your words no matter who you are talking to. Rule of Thumb: If it’s not constructive, it’s probably destructive.

Related: 

How to Find Good Relationship Advice

STAYING TOGETHER: Resist The Urge To Trash Husbands

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***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***